Bánh Mì Xíu Mại (Meatball Bánh Mì)


  • Prep Time35 mins
  • Total Time55 mins
  • Makes4 servings
Bánh Mì Xíu Mại (Meatball Bánh Mì)

Photography by Christie Vuong; Produced by Sun Ngo; Recipe by Joseph Nguyen.

Bánh mì xíu mại is Vietnam’s very own meatball sub (“xíu mại” means meatballs in tomato sauce). Try this recipe from Joseph Nguyên, the owner of Tâm, a Vietnamese street-food joint in Toronto. Use the meatballs as the main filling for your bánh mì as we do here, or take a lesson from the chef and turn the recipe into a flavourful spread to accompany a classic bánh mì with cold cuts.


  • 1 cup breadcrumbs

  • 1⁄2 cup whole milk

  • 2 green onions, roughly chopped

  • 1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped

  • 1 small jicama, peeled and roughly chopped

  • 1 kg ground pork

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

  • 2 tbsp ketchup

  • salt and pepper, to taste

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 28 oz can (796 mL) diced tomatoes

  • 1⁄4 cup granulated sugar

  • 4 baguettes

  • condiments of choice, (see note below)

  • cucumbers, cut lengthwise into thin slices

  • cilantro

  • sliced chilies, (optional), jalapeno or bird's eye are ideal


  • Soak breadcrumbs in milk for 5 min. In the bowl of a food processor, combine green onions, yellow onion and jicama; process to reach a fine consistency. Add pork, breadcrumb-milk mixture, brown sugar, ketchup and a pinch each salt and pepper. Process until well combined, 30 sec. Form mixture into 1-in. balls, making about 20 meatballs total.

  • Set up a steamer and bring water to a boil. (Check directions for your steamer; if you don’t have one, you can use a steamer basket over simmering water.) Transfer meatballs into a small heatproof plate and place in steamer, working in batches if needed. Steam on medium, lid closed, until meatballs are cooked through, 30 min.

  • Meanwhile, heat oil in a large, deep skillet on medium. Sauté garlic until slightly softened, 45 sec. Add tomatoes and granulated sugar; cook on medium-low for 10 min, until sauce reduces slightly. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside until meatballs are cooked.

  • Add cooked meatballs to tomato sauce. Cook on low for 5 min more. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Assembly: Split each baguette lengthwise, without cutting the whole way through. Spread mayonnaise on cut sides of each baguette. Layer ingredients from bottom up using a drizzle of Maggi Seasoning, meatballs (about 5 per sandwich), pickled vegetables, chillies and cucumber. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.


You can transform this meatball recipe into a spread:

Start by soaking the breadcrumbs in 1 cup whole milk. Make the pork mixture as directed, but don’t form into balls. Instead, steam the pork mixture and add it to the tomato sauce in Step 4. Use it to liven up a classic bánh mì.